Banburyshire woman's walk, tracing her husband's life-saving dash to heart hospital, aims to bring fundraising total to £100,000

Alexandra Williams is tracing her husband's 2012 ambulance dash to Oxford Heart Centre on foot to mark the tenth anniversary of the day surgeons saved his life.

By Roseanne Edwards
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 12:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:10 pm
Alexandra Williams who will walk from Thenford to the JR, Oxford to raise money for equipment for the Oxford Heart Centre
Alexandra Williams who will walk from Thenford to the JR, Oxford to raise money for equipment for the Oxford Heart Centre

Mrs Williams, daughter of former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, will walk from the front door of her home in Thenford to the JR Hospital, Oxford in a bid to bring her fundraising total for the heart unit to £100,000.

After surgeon Ravi De Silva and his team operated to repair an aortic dissection to save Nick Williams' life, Mrs Williams initially pledged to raise £50,000 for the heart unit. The condition had severe symptoms and the family's GP, the late Dr Tim Cherry, recognised the severity of his condition and arranged for an ambulance to bypass normal protocols and travel straight to Oxford.

Mrs Williams said: "February 2022 sees the tenth anniversary of Nick's life-saving operation for his dissected aorta at the Oxford Heart Centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

Alexandra Williams with her beloved husband Nick whose life was saved by heart specialists in Oxford

"Not a week goes by when I don't think about the incredible team who saved him. (Aortic dissection) has a high mortality rate and sadly is often misdiagnosed. Most people in his situation never make it to the operating table.

"But this is about joy, happiness and success. I wanted to mark the anniversary to say thank you to the team who looked after him, from our lovely GP (now sadly not with us) to the 999 call handler to the surgeon, anaesthetist, cardiologists, nursing staff, cleaners, cooks and everyone who helped us as a family through the three weeks he was in hospital."

Mrs Williams said she and her husband, an art dealer and retired proprietor of Holloways in Banbury, locked down hard during Covid.

"I wanted to keep him safe and not waste the good work the heart team had done. My walk on February 13 will be a rough tracing of the route the ambulance took from our front door near Banbury to the hospital A&E entrance in Oxford. It's a walking marathon which has taken me six months to prepare for."

Nick and Alexandra Williams outside their Thenford home, from where Mrs Williams will set out for her walk to Oxford's JR hospital

In the years after Mr Williams' operation Mrs Williams raised £84,000 through designer clothes sales but predominantly a highly successful art auction in September 2013. The money was added to a £1.5m 'transformation' of the Heart Centre completed in 2014. She hopes to top £100,000 in total by the end of the walk next month. Her JustGiving page link is here.

Mrs Williams' aim is to pay for equipment to support a new anaesthetic machine for the department. This is expected to cost £17,000 and will benefit some 3,000 patients a year.

"There has been a steady increase in the number of patients needing a cardioversion in recent years. Cardioversion is a controlled electric shock to the heart using a defibrillator, given to patients under a short-acting general anaesthetic," she said.

"Until now, the team conducting cardioversions have shared their anaesthetic equipment with others in the Cath Labs in the Oxford Heart Centre. Cath Labs are like operating theatres where investigative tests such as coronary angiograms or cardiac catheterisation are carried out. The team would massively benefit from having their own equipment specifically for these patients. This will save the time of moving equipment from one area to another, allowing more patients to be treated and helping reduce waiting times."

Alexandra Williams and Sister Sandra Hutton, who was the first to let her know her husband Nick was going to live

Lucy Budgett, head of major gifts for the Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: “We are so thrilled to be working with Alexandra again. Her remarkable fundraising for Oxford Hospitals Charity ten years ago helped us to make important improvements for patients and staff in our Heart Centre.

"This fresh push now will go towards new specialist equipment and will mean a great deal to all those working there. We are full of admiration and gratitude for her continued support.”

* The £1.5 million refurbishment of a vacant ward at the heart unit in 2014 provided a new echocardiology facility at the JR. Located behind the Oxford Heart Centre, it comprises ten consulting rooms, seven echocardiology rooms, offices, a meeting room and a reporting room. The facility also offers a new reception and a large, welcoming waiting room.